HUMAN ZAMBONI

January 29, 2004 11:00 pm
Children enjoy the Enterprise Community Ice Skating Rink.  (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).
Children enjoy the Enterprise Community Ice Skating Rink. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).

ENTERPRISE — The Enterprise Community Ice Skating Rink's ice now has the quality of indoor refrigerator rinks.

A $1,400 grant from the Robert W. Chandler Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation has provided ice surfacing equipment, including an ice mowing machine and an in-line hot water heater.

The new surfacing system is a low-tech, human-powered version of the Zamboni, said Mike Hansen of Enterprise. Hansen, an ice rink volunteer, designed and built the new surfacing system.

A Zamboni is the large machine that resurfaces indoor ice rinks. A Zamboni uses a sharp knife blade to shave a 1/8-inch layer off the top of the ice. That shaved ice is augered into a holding tank to later be dumped.

The Zamboni then spreads hot water back onto the ice, creating a smooth, glazed surface. The manmade ice of indoor rinks is frozen solid to the floor, one or two inches deep, so it can support the heavy Zamboni.

The seasonal rink in the Enterprise City Park relies on cold weather to freeze water on a plastic liner over an unleveled section of lawn.

So the ice thickness can't be controlled and there is often water under the ice.

A Zamboni's weight could crack the ice or sink the ice under water.

Hansen, the local human Zamboni, grooms the ice in three steps.

Loose snow is removed with shovels. Any high spots are chopped down flush with the surrounding ice surface using the new ice mower. The mower is essentially a modified lawn mower with a carbide-tipped blade that shaves the ice level with an adjustment of its three wheels.

Then the ice sheet is glazed with a garden hose and a perforated pipe that spreads water over a 4-foot wide swath.

This year, an inline propane water heater and hose insulation were added so that the wand spreads a glaze of hot water.

Hot water thoroughly bonds to the old ice when it freezes, and does not flake off when skated upon.

Ice made from hot water has a lower air content, yielding a less porous and harder surface.

The result is smooth, durable and level ice.

The new equipment has really improved the quality of the ice, said rink manager Marcy Strazer.

This is the ice rink's third season. It was created by a variety of local initiatives and grants. The Chandler Fund was established by the late Robert Chandler, founder of Western Communications Inc., which owns The Observer.

The grant is greatly appreciated as is the $3,000 in room tax money contributed by the City of Enterprise for the second consecutive year, said Wendy Hansen, executive director of the Enterprise Hometown Improvement Group. An EHIG committee oversees the rink.

The community rink is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is open skating most mornings, and hockey and other activities in the afternoons and evenings.